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All that we Share – from Danish Advert to Google Images

Guest post by Svetlana Kataeva, Centre for Business in Society

“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day” – Winston Churchill

Sadly, diversity can often be linked with discourses of difference and division: people assign each other into categories by judging someone’s looks, behaviours and beliefs. It is tempting to do so as it makes things much easier: this is me – this is her, this is us – this is them.

But if we take a closer look, it becomes clear that we have more in common with each other than it may first seem. To realise these commonalities is just one of the paths towards a more inclusive and empowered society.

Many companies nowadays recognise and embrace diversity and share their views in order to educate and empower their audiences, by challenging biased opinions (for visual examples check Google and Apple).

One company that was particularly successful in taking this vision on board is TV2 Danmark that created an advertisement called ‘All that we share’, with an emotional and important message. Check it out for yourselves below:

The beautifully executed and at times emotionally charged advert challenges societal tendency of putting people into boxes. Those boxes signify one of the most troubling aspects of contemporary society – division and stereotypes that, in turn, can lead to segregation, exclusion, intolerance and hatred. In the ad, these societal boundaries are broken by inviting people to reveal their common truths, from being a step-parent, bisexual, being bullied (or being the bully), being the class clown and many more relatable every day commonalities.

TV2’s advert is a good example of thoughtful marketing practice that, while recognising sociocultural diversity, proactively promotes equity and acceptance by exposing the common truths of all participants. Marketers often target consumer groups based on socially stereotypical characteristics – beer for football fans, pink dresses for girls, cheap long-distance calls for the immigrant population and so on. Having said that, it is becoming more difficult for businesses to engage with consumers by the means of traditional ‘social labels’ segmentation (Henderson and Rank-Christman 2016). This is why it is important for companies to tap into their consumers’ true identity to avoid risks of exclusion, stereotyping, exoticisation or idealisation.

‘All that we share’ shows us that diversity can provide societal unity by sharing our ‘true’ selves through removal of ‘social labels’.

The ad received an overwhelming number of positive comments. Many Danes expressed pride in their country, saying that it truly reflects the spirit and inclusivity of Denmark. Moreover, TV2’s campaign touched hearts of a countless number of people from around the world. But there is a twist – the other side of the coin. In the comments sections to the video, one can see a strong presence of the antagonists. Most ardently voiced remarks were concerned with criticisms of immigrant population, an issue observable at a wider societal level. Why has such a seemingly heart-warming advert provoked such high volumes of negativity? Well, some people feel differently… academically speaking, TV2’s advert integrated multiple cultural appeals, thus engaging with multiple cultural groups in order to facilitate positive inter-group relations (Kipnis et al. 2013). The reason for differing responses was the audiences’ varied cultural identity dynamics. Thus, positive reactions belong to the group that is more tolerant and open to cultural differences, whereas negative feedback derives from the group that tries to minimise intergroup contact and expresses prejudice towards other cultural groups (Kipnis et al. 2013). In other words, there occurred misalignment between multiple cultural cues from the advert and feelings and attitudes of the latter group.

While companies are proactively working with the agenda of cultural engagement and inclusivity, e.g. promoting such values and educating consumers, the risks of backlashes pertain. An example to illustrate this point is the controversy over Google search images of ‘three black teenagers’ vs ‘three white teenagers’. Although the company is known for their policies of diversity and inclusion, it was accused of being racist. In Google’s official response a spokesperson delivered an important note, saying that the search results represent the ‘content from across the web’ and the way pictures are described, and do not reflect Google’s values. The problem lies in the attitudes of those who upload the images, be it other media, organisations, or Internet users. If more stakeholders share the values of cultural tolerance and positive intercultural attitudes, there will be less intergroup bias. If more viewers of TV2’s ad shared those values, there would be fewer negative responses. There are two sides of the coin… If we want it to be on the side of social cohesion, we need to work towards it together – businesses, policy makers, marketers and people.

‘Originally posted on the MICSNetwork

References

Henderson, G.R. and Rank-Christman, T. (2016) ‘Diversity and Consumer Behavior’. Current Opinion in Psychology [online] 10, 148–153

Kipnis, E., Broderick, A.J., Demangeot, C., Adkins, N.R., Ferguson, N.S., Henderson, G.R., Johnson, G., Mandiberg, J.M., Mueller, R.D., Pullig, C., Roy, A., and Zuniga, M.A. (2013) ‘Branding beyond Prejudice: Navigating Multicultural Marketplaces for Consumer Well-Being’. Journal of Business Research [online] 66 (8), 1186–1194.

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